Seventh-graders at Southampton Middle School in Bel Air are doing their part to help bring back the oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay.
This week, David Sikorski from the Coastal Conservation Association Maryland and a group of volunteers came to the school and worked with the students to construct 18 oyster reef balls that will be sunk in the Chesapeake Bay in the summer with the goal of repopulating oysters.
The Southampton students have been researching bay dead zones, their causes and some of the solutions. Science teacher Joy John contacted CCA about coming out to the school and having students participate in the project.
On Wednesday, working in teams under the supervision of the CCA volunteers and teachers, the students mixed up concrete and poured it into the fiberglass molds to make the reef balls. Once the concrete is set, the reef balls will be transported to a Chesapeake Bay Foundation's oyster restoration center in Shady Side, Anne Arundel County, where they will be placed into a 3,000 gallon tank.
Oyster larvae are introduced into the tank and after about a week, they will attach themselves to the reef balls. Once that process is complete the reef balls will be placed into the man-made Tilghman Reef site where the oysters will then grow. The structures also provide habitat for other fish and shellfish.
Coastal Conservation Association Marylad has already put out approximately 210 of the concrete structures at the man-made Tilghman Reef site.
"We are the first school in Harford County to partner with them [CCA] for this activity," John, their teacher, said. "Our goal in completing the reef ball project is to help provide substrate for oysters to attach and therefore repopulate the bay."
"They [CCA volunteers] explain the process of creating the balls to the kids, we make them, and afterwards we will learn even more about oysters, their anatomy, their importance, and history of the oyster in the Chesapeake Bay." John said.
The CCA has partnered with a host of businesses and schools across Maryland to create the new habitat for fish and shellfish, according to the organization's website.